[Note: I struggled, as have many in the US media, over whether to include an example of Charlie Hebdo’s ugly ugly cartoons here. I struggled in part because I think it’s necessary to have a sense of how callously, pointlessly, vile they could be when having rather abstract discussion of “freedom of speech”. In the end, I still couldn’t include a drawing of a religious figure bent over and naked soliciting his own anal rape]
The difficult spot many of us who wish to take a critical stance towards the broader reaction to the Charlie Hebdo killing is that broad-based reactions such as #jesuischarlie immediately paint one as either “for” the supposed satire of Charlie Hebdo or “for” the slaughter of cartoonists in their board rooms. It is possible, in fact probably necessary to be “for” neither.
On Monday 3 March, 2014, the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius began with a flurry of international media coverage. The famous “Blade Runner”, now made infamous for shooting and killing his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day 2013, is defending his actions as a case of mistaken identity. The fact of the shooting is not in doubt, and as Margie Orford’s oped (now gone viral) brilliantly shows, the three bodies at stake and their arrangement in relation to one another is clear. Those three bodies are: the cyborg body of the Olympic athlete now fallen from grace; the “exquisite corpse” of the former model; and the imagined body of the racialized stranger intent on robbery, rape, and murder.
This past weekend I visited Detroit’s 2011 North American International Auto Show, where Ford used the opportunity to show off its new police Interceptors (check out Ford’s site complete with siren loading graphic and nationwide tour dates). Seductively displayed in front of a slogan proclaiming, “Protecting Our Community. Securing Our Future,” and the message, “Ford salutes first responders. The heroes you depend on depend on Ford,” the cars were hard to miss. There was something rather striking about the Interceptors -fierce yet sleek- that seemed to draw a continuous crowd of all ages.
The name alone is alluring: Interceptor. It rolls off the tongue and brings forth images of blockbuster car chases complete with explosions and gritty, attractive male leads like Jason Statham or Daniel Craig. As I stood listening to the soft “ooohs” and “ahhhhs” of passersby and watched dozens of people whip out their cameraphones (yours truly included), I asked myself who Ford was trying to sell the Interceptor to -the police or us? Moreover, what was Ford really selling -the car itself, an “ideal” representation of the police, a car-chase fantasy, their own “Ford-tough” image, or all of the above?